We have from the start advised those old enough and medically able to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. We have also pressed employers to take reasonable steps to protect their employees, and that everyone take whatever steps they believe necessary to protect themselves.

We are firmly in the anti-COVID camp.

We have been critical of many government regulatory actions related to the pandemic, particularly those borne of sweeping emergency executive orders that have escaped legislative review.

Almost from the start, the state governors imposed strict rules on businesses and employers, and sent out regulators to force compliance.

The state of Oregon found out recently how hard it is to enforce its own mandates.

After a one-year hiatus, the Oregon State Fair returned this year with the theme “Fun makes a comeback.” Maybe a little too much fun, at least for some patrons.

Late last month, Gov. Kate Brown mandated that masks be worn in public settings, indoors and outdoors, at large gatherings such as the fair and the recently-completed Pendleton Round-Up. The fair, a public corporation, is a government entity that operates under the authority of state statute. The fairgrounds and the facilities located on the grounds are owned by the state. The fair is patrolled by the Oregon State Police.

Several news outlets reported that Oregon OSHA received at least a dozen complaints that mask rules were not enforced on the grounds. Photos posted on social media indicate widespread flouting of the governor’s rules.

“We are adding steps. Over the weekend, we talked with Oregon OSHA, and they will be visiting the fair on their time frame,” Oregon State Fair spokesperson Dave Thompson told KOIN. “They will be looking specifically at the vendors and staff and the people we do have some control over and make sure they’re wearing masks. Vendors could be fined thousands of dollars.”

OSHA was sent to hold vendors to the rules, but not to make the fair enforce the rules on its patrons. Ejecting uncompliant fairgoers would have been hard, unpopular and not much fun.

Ag employers can empathize. They have, in effect, been turned into agents of the state. If they fail to comply with the rules, or are thwarted by uncooperative employees or customers, they can be heavily fined by the state.

In an ideal world, the experiences of an actual agent of the state with enforcing state diktats would inform regulators to the practical problems of compliance and ameliorate their attitudes toward good faith efforts put forth by the regulated.

Alas, the world is far from ideal.

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